Collective Heart Intelligence

At last month’s Program for the Future (the NextNow-born initiative focused on reinvigorating the development of tools and technologies to support collective intelligence), one of the most interesting movements I observed emerging out of those who chose to be there was toward creating a broader definition of “intelligence.”  My opinion, which seemed widely supported, is that real collective intelligence isn’t a product solely of human thinking–it actually requires that we tap in to ALL of the human intelligences, as well as the intelligence of Nature. It must include the intelligence of the heart.  If this were truly and sincerely accomplished, I believe collective intelligence would represent a Whole greater than the sum of the parts–something not at all guaranteed by a collective intelligence that is the product of thinking minds alone.

So to balance the good thinking we’re all doing, this post is the first in a series to shift focus away from thinking, and starts at a very essential level–using the intelligence of the heart to manage human stress.  After all, how “intelligent” are we capable of being when we’re under chronic or extreme stress, including at a collective level?

Several of the most active members of the NextNow community have experience with the Institute of HeartMath, the organization that NextNow Collaboratory is working with in support of the Global Coherence Initiative.  HeartMath is a non-profit stress research picture-6institute that has been provideing stress solutions to the military, government, hospitals, police, Fortune 500 companies, and school systems for over 17 years.  They received a $1 million US Dept of Education grant to develop programs to reduce test anxiety and improve emotional resilience and academic performance that achieved significant results within 3 months. Based on the effectiveness of HeartMath for resilience training, they recently were awarded a grant to train soldiers pre-deployment and in Iraq and are applying for other grants to help military families post-deployment. They also have support in Congress.

picture-5In Informal Learning (Pfeiffer, 2006) by NN’er Jay Cross, there is a paragraph about my early experience with HeartMath tools as a director of executive development at the Haas School, UC Berkeley:

In 1995, Claudia brought Heartmath into the executive program at UC Berkeley.  The participating CEO’s and business unit heads were expected to return to their organizations with hard solutions to complex global problems, not theories about “soft stuff” like the role of heart intelligence in decision-making.  When the topic was introduced there was a stunned silence and the usual signs of withdrawal—heads turning to look out windows, people suddenly realizing they needed to use the restroom.  But when the technique was offered and the biofeedback technology was hooked up to a few willing volunteers, seeing was believing. The implications of the internal coherence they observed were obvious, but what to do with this new awareness given the prevailing paradigm, was not.

HeartMath’s published research has identified a measurable psycho-physiological state called coherence that enables individuals to better manage their emotional energy, take the drama out of stressful situations and connect with a deeper awareness. As people learn simple practices to create this state of psycho-physiological equilibrium, which brings order to the heart rhythm pattern, they can quickly improve cognitive function, regain emotional balance and improve personal health and well-being.

To become collectively heart intelligent, we need to care for our own individual level of coherence.  To that end, Heartmath has written a De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times that provides a few simple coherence-building practices to help people intercept and manage stress during this period of challenge and uncertainty. It’s included under the “Resource” heading for review, where you’ll find a link to a free download from HeartMath.

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